“I had the feeling that he was giving me a heart attack”. It is very common to hear people say this phrase to those who have had a panic attack for the first time.
And the truth is that it makes sense for them to think such a thing, because the symptoms are easily confused: in both cases, among other symptoms, somatic activation, tingling, chest pain, tachycardia and a suffocation. But there are differences that can help us determine whether what is happening to us is just a product of anxiety or whether we are dealing with a real heart problem. In this article let’s look at some of the differences between the two problems.
In order to establish the differences between anxiety and heart problems, we must first consider what each term refers to.
Anxiety is a state of agitation, subjective discomfort in varying degrees which usually occurs in anticipation of a possible future stimulus, scenario or situation. In some people, a very high level of anxiety can end up causing one of the so-called anxiety or panic attacks.
In these situations there is a sudden and high level of pain and discomfort in which tachycardia usually appears, pain in the chest or other areas of the body, sweating, tremors, suffocation, tingling, dissociative symptoms such as dysrealization or depersonalization usually appear., Dizziness and thoughts. about the possibility of losing control or dying, often believing you are having a heart attack. This is a very common occurrence that should not be limited to a disorder (in fact, technically most of us will have at least one throughout our life), which results from overactivation. of the limbic system which in turn generates an overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system.
2. Heart problems
As for heart problems, there are many possible alterations that could be considered to cause similar symptomsBut the most common is to consider the existence of angina or a heart attack. The most common symptoms include chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, and difficulty breathing, often preceded in the case of male pain and numbness in the right arm.
In women, symptoms are more easily mistaken for anxiety, as the pain is usually not so localized in the right arm but more generally. The causes are usually found in the presence of obstacles to circulatory flow, usually in the arteries.
Key differences between anxiety and heart problems
Below, we’ll take a look at some of the main things that allow us to tell the difference between anxiety and heart problems. However, it should be kept in mind that these are general differences, being in many cases necessary to perform an EKG and / or other tests to confirm the presence or absence of heart damage.
1. Types and locations of pain
People with heart attack, the main heart problem that confuses anxiety attackThey report feeling a type of oppressive pain that occurs in the chest, neck and back, and in the case of men in the left arm. We feel like we are being crushed, and the situation usually gets worse with the effort.
In anxiety, however, the pain is described as a burning sensation, as if something is nailed to our chest. In addition to this area, pain can appear in any part of the body, and on the contrary in heart problems is not related to the effort we make.
2. Duration of symptoms
Symptoms of a panic or anxiety attack tend to last a few minutes, Although in some cases it may be extended. There are several considerations in this regard, but they generally tend to last a maximum of ten to fifteen minutes.
In the event of a heart injury or heart attack, what the pain tends to last a long time and if it goes away, it usually comes back in a short time.
Obviously, this does not mean that before symptoms appear, we have to wait and see how long they last, because in the event of a heart attack, too much waiting could be fatal. You should go to a medical center as soon as possible.
3. Respiratory disorders
One of the main differences that can help us distinguish between a heart problem and anxiety is related to the presence or absence of respiratory problems. In anxiety, the presence of hyperventilation and choking is very common, which is not common during a heart attack.
In heart problems in general, breathing continues to function normally or there is difficulty in carrying it out, without speeding up, unless the heart attack itself causes the anxiety to appear at the same time.
4. Paresthesias and drowsiness
Another feature that usually stands out in both problems is hemiparesis or tingling.. (More information on hemiparesis). In anxiety, it is common to find numbness and tingling in the arms and legs accompanied by sudden stinging. However, during a real heart attack, there tends to occur evenly and unchanged numbness, often only on the left side of the body.
5. Feeling out of control
As a general rule, unless the very suffering of the heart problem causes an anxiety attack in those who have it, the subject suffering from a heart attack does not tend to have any kind of loss of behavioral control.
In anxiety, on the other hand, it is common for the subject to experience feelings of strangeness and dissociative symptoms such as unrealization, as well as a feeling that they cannot control their own body and emotions. It’s also common to think that you might be going crazy.